Panama Banking

by Jean Bouttet - Date: 2007-01-25 - Word Count: 815 Share This!

There are about 150 banks in Panama and they come in several flavors. One is the offshore bank that can only do business with entities not in Panama. There are banks that can only do business with entities in Panama and then there are banks that can do business with those offshore as well as those entities within Panama. In addition there are Savings and Loans (like a Building Society in UK) which operate like banks except they must invest 70% of their long term deposits in Panama real estate with appropriate controls.

If you are not living here and just walk in to your local bank on the corner I doubt you will get an account opened no matter what country you are from. If you own or rent a home here then things are different. You should have a cell phone number, a regular house phone number, a mailing address (mail does not get delivered to your house in Panama, you need a mail box), a good reason as to what you are doing in Panama like retired, a bank reference from your home country (states how long you have had an account, average balance and that you are in good standing), reference letter from local people who know you, and a reference letter from lawyer or accountant back home. Then add in your passport and drivers license and you should be good to go with a letter explaining your source of funds such as commissions, savings, proceeds from house sale, etc. It would be a real bad idea to try to open an account with a cash deposit instead use a wire transfer from your home town bank. Do not make any substantial cash deposits as this would be a warning flag. Checks from USA will take 3-4 weeks to clear. You are not allowed to write Panama checks outside of the country. They will give you a Visa or MasterCard Debit Card readily with your account. Most banks have Internet Banking.

If you get a residency first before opening the account it will be easier and all these references may not be needed. More on Visas, Residency and Citizenship can be found here.

Privacy and Banking in Panama
Panama has serious bank secrecy laws. Your money here is safe from lawyers and others who wish to abusively take it away from you. Collecting a civil debt from another country in Panama is close to impossible, don't plan on it happening. A government trying to get at your money has numerous difficulties. First it must be a national government. Next it has to involve a criminal case on file in their court system. The equivalent of their Justice Department contacts the State department and through their consulate in Panama papers are filed according to the MLAT (Mutual legal Assistance Treaty) by their consulate in Panama with the Panama Government. The papers are reviewed and questions in return are filed along with requests for more information. Thus the dance begins and can last years. If the request is lawful the information will eventually be supplied. Sometimes the country which the bank is located in may themselves get interested thinking a crime may have been committed in their country let us say, and they may seize the records and keep them for a long time while they do their investigation.

Your money here is safe from lawyers and others who wish to abusively take it away from you.
The MLAT is a process that the USA would like to play more of but other countries are generally sick and tired of it and do not like it at all. If you are a criminal and they are after you they will eventually have the bank records and even get the money seized. A fun trick the USA plays is once they find out how much money their target has and can justify to their courts confiscating it, they then confiscate this amount from the offshore banks correspondent bank in the USA telling the bank to take the money back from so and so depositor who was their target. If in the interim from the time the USA has the bank records and made the seizure against the correspondents bank account the depositor took all or part of his money out of the bank and the USA took the full amount away, the bank would be in the position of trying to get the USA to return the money which probably would never happen or if so years later after a court battle that would cost a fortune. So now many people have taken to keeping their funds in Euros or non dollar denominated accounts so the USA can't possibly say the money on deposit in America is theirs in whole or part. With few exceptions Panama Banks only have dollar accounts.

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Related Tags: money, business, panama, panama banking, offshore real estate, offshore banking, legal, retirement planning, retirement plan, offshore realestate, offshore business, offshore assets, assets protection, offshore investments, panama law

The author is a researcher, with years of experience in finances and real estate.
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